Top 5 Electrical Fire Starters

When a house fire happens in movies and tv shows, we’ve seen countless scenes where the culprit is a curling iron that was left unattended. It’s easy to laugh at these comedies, but a dangerous truth lies behind the laughs. 

Electrical fires in homes are incredibly dangerous, and can lead to people and pets losing their lives. However, there are ways to drastically decrease the likelihood of an electrical fire in your home. 

First, know the 5 most common culprits: 

Old Wiring

Outdated electrical wiring is one of the most common causes of house fires. 

  • As technology and electrical systems advance, older wiring loses the capacity to handle the increased electrical demand. This can quickly lead to other, very serious problems. 
  • Older wiring is prone to overheating and catching fire. But it can be difficult to know whether you have underlying electrical problems, especially if your wiring is hidden behind walls or otherwise not visible. 
  • If you know how to access the house’s primary wiring system, check for any signs of damage. Signs include scorch marks, frayed electrical cords, electrical sparks, melted wires, or inexplicable burning smells coming from the wires or electrical sockets. 
  • Do not try to fix these problems yourself, as this can worsen the damage, and pose a very serious danger to your safety and the safety of your house. 
  • Call a qualified, professional electrician to fix any issues and conduct an in-depth evaluation of your house’s wiring systems. 

Light Fixtures

Light fixtures and lamps are frequently used for long periods of time, especially in rooms with a lot of foot traffic. Many house fires originate from a light fixture or a lamp. 

  • It’s usually fairly obvious if there are serious electrical faults in lighting fixtures, as you’ll see flickering lights, hear a clicking or buzzing noises, and smell something burning. But the flickering is far from being the most dangerous part of faulty light fixtures. 
  • Using bulbs with wattages that are too high for the lamps and light fixtures is a leading cause of electrical fires. Always check, and never exceed, the max recommended bulb wattage of light fixtures. 
  • You also need to make sure that any free-standing lights (like lamps or night lights) are plugged into electrical sockets that match the recommended socket wattage. 
  • Avoid plugging free-standing lights into extension cords for long periods of time, and don’t overload the socket/cord. 
  • Never place any material over a light fixture or lamp. It may seem harmless, but materials like paper and cloth can catch fire very suddenly given the rate at which light bulbs and lamps heat up. 
  • If your light fixtures are frequently flickering, overheating, or giving off a burning smell, have a qualified electrician repair or replace them as soon as possible. 

Portable/Space Heaters

This fire hazard poses a significant threat, particularly now given how cold this year’s winter is. 

  • Be aware of where you put your heaters. Never put them near any flammable materials or surfaces. Never use your heater to arm up clothing. It’s tempting, but it can very quickly lead to disaster.
  • Don’t leave your heater on for an extended period of time, and always plug it directly into a wall outlet to avoid any extension cord related shorts. In the same way, make sure you’re using the right size heater for any given room. Using a large heater to warm up a small space increases the likelihood of overheating.
  • Never leave your heater unattended. Don’t leave it on in another room, when you go out, or even when you’re sleeping.
  • Don’t use older models. Coil space heaters are a significant fire hazard because if the coils overheat they will ignite any flammable material near the heater. If your heater isn’t up-to-date with the latest safety features, rather consider buying a newer model. Radiator-type heaters are ideal because heat is distributed across the entire surface, rather than just the coils. Flammable materials should still be kept away, though. 

Faulty sockets/extensions/appliances

Electrical house fires are often associated with faulty appliance mishaps, and people often overlook the danger of faults inside the actual wall outlets or extension cords. 

  • Properly maintain electrical sockets. Never use damaged or scorched sockets. If an outlet is loose, always repair or replace it before use.
  • Don’t use any cords that are damaged or frayed.
  • Power surges caused by faulty extension cords and power strips are a significant fire hazard.

With that said however, faulty or old appliances are still fire hazards.

  • Pay attention to your appliances. If they are malfunctioning, either repair or replace them.
  •  Older appliances are prone to overheating, so keep any flammable materials away. 
  • Don’t use any appliances that are damaged, low quality, or don’t meet safety standards.

Overloading circuits

We’ve covered the dangers of power surges in some of our previous blog posts, but what might not be widely known is the fire hazard posed by power surges and overloading circuits.

  • Be wary of extension cords. Don’t use them indefinitely, and be very careful not to overload them. When appliances are all plugged into the same extension cord or power strip it creates excessive power load on a single socket, leading to overheating, shorting, and power surges.
  • Use good quality, heavy-duty extension cords and power strips, especially if you can’t avoid using them indefinitely. Never cover cords with rugs as they could be stepped on. Damaged and smashed cords are prone to overheating and melting.
  • Only plug appliances in when they’re in use, wherever possible. If you have appliances that need to be plugged in permanently, don’t plug them into the same outlet.
  • Never overload your outlets. If you don’t have enough outlets in your home, contact an electrician to install additional ones.
  • Invest in surge protection to protect your sensitive appliances, and prevent shorts/sparks which could cause fires.

It’s critical for every homeowner to make sure they’re doing everything they can to prevent electrical fires. You should also install smoke detectors, and have a fire extinguisher in the house. But there’s only so much we can do ourselves. 

That’s why you should have a registered electrician assess any concerns you may have, or conduct any repairs you may need. They can also issue a Certificate of Compliance to certify and ensure the safety of your home. 

Contact us for a free on-site quote, a Certificate of Compliance assessment, and Expert Electrical Service.




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